In Japanese slang, the word okama, which means rice pot, is unflatteringly used to describe a homosexual man. Okoge, the burnt rice which sticks to the okama, describes a woman who prefers the company of gay man; its American equivalent is the term fag hag.
The most unlikely friendship begins on a beach, when Sayoko (Misa Shimizu) meets a pair of male lovers, Goh (Takehiro Murata) and Tochi (Takeo Nakahara). Ignorant of gay life, Sayoko watches, rapt, as the two men caress and kiss each other. This gay beach is one of the few public places where
Goh, a leather accessories designer, and Tochi, a closeted married man, can be together comfortably. Herself a victim of childhood sexual abuse, the romantic but sexually inactive Sayoko becomes their fairy godmother, allowing the men to use her tiny flat when Goh's mother (Noriko Sengoku) moves
in with him. Sitting alone in her room, she leafs through books about her beloved Frida Kahlo, listens to the sound of her new buddies making love, and smiles in perfect contentment.
Formidable and typically Japanese pressures to conform intrude when Tochi's wife (Toshie Negishi) makes a surprise visit to the love nest. Her threats to ruin her husband cause him to break off with the distraught Goh. Back on the cruise bar circuit again, Goh becomes infatuated by the macho
Kurihara (Masayuki Shionoya). Sayoko, who revels in her newfound calling of okoge, tries to play matchmaker, but is instead raped by the basically straight Kurihara. This causes a rupture in her friendship with Goh. She takes up with her attacker and is soon wandering the streets with her baby,
impoverished by Kurihara's errant ways. Meanwhile, Tochi has had enough with self-repression and comes out flamboyantly, with the aid of a drag queen friend, at a company banquet. Goh hears of Sayoko's plight, finds her, and, with her infant, the three make a most unusual family unit sauntering
through the wild landscape of Tokyo's nightlife.
Director-writer Takehiro Nakajima clearly had a personal mission in making this film: The middle-aged father of two, he only recently made the decision to fully accept his homosexuality, and OKOGE was his way of expressing satirical anger over the stifling conformity imposed by Japanese society.
As a representation of gay life in Japan, OKOGE is something of a watershed, and Nakajima presents a tantalizing glimpse of the numerous beaches and bars where men can meet and greet. But while undeniably diverting and eye-opening, the film falls short emotionally. The situations and characters,
despite their novel setting, are cliched, their resolutions and exposition too pat and undeveloped; the entire closeted scenario is very Gay Film 101 and Tochi's outburst in the work place smacks more of the lowest Japanese commercial farce, rather than any deep-seated subversive impulse in the
man. And although it's refreshing that Nakajima has employed real-looking actors, acne scars and all, to essay the male leads, neither Murata or Nakahara is compelling enough to command the audience identification which could make their stories truly moving.
Nakajima is firm ground when he examines the specifically Japanese aspects of his characters' dilemmas, but the massed drag queens besting Sayoko's brutal heterosexual enemies--a Nippon version of the Stonewall uprising--fails to rouse. After the anarchic madness of John Waters and Pedro
Almodovar--not to mention PARIS IS BURNING--it's pretty wan stuff. (Nudity, adult situations, sexual situations, violence, substance abuse.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1993
- Rating: NR
- Review: In Japanese slang, the word okama, which means rice pot, is unflatteringly used to describe a homosexual man. Okoge, the burnt rice which sticks to the okama, describes a woman who prefers the company of gay man; its American equivalent is the term fag hag… (more)